AN: I haven't written a fanfic in awhile and I've never written a Kids Next Door fanfic, so you'll have to bare with me on any horrible writing or out-of-character-ness.
A few notes on this story, it is slightly AU-ish. There is no Galactic Kids Next Door. Every operative gets decomissioned after their thirteenth birthday unless they escape like Cree and go evil. There are probably other things I'm forgetting to mention but you'll probably notice them.
This story is going to be fairly complicated and it might have quite a serious side, even going dark in some places. I still hope that I'll be able to capture the essence of the show, however, so we'll see. Um...the rating may go up so be forewarned. So...Read on witcha' bad self.
Prologue: The Last
Numbah 3 sat forlornly on a window bench in the tree house headquarters. She was staring into the night sky, a dark ocean glistening with silver fish. The moon hung dauntingly high, bright and full, mockingly. In her lap she hugged a Red Rainbow Monkey, despite the fact for the past month she'd been losing interest in such things, a symptom of adolescence.
The usually cheerful girl had decided to forego the traditional dual birthday-farewell party that the Kids Next Door threw for its best operatives upon reaching that golden age, opting to spend her last moments with her memories alone. Besides, mournfully she thought, there really was no one left she truly wanted to wish farewell. She'd already said her good-bye's to them a long time ago. Soon she would be taken to the Moonbase for decommissioning, a process through which everything she knew of her years with the Kids Next Door would be erased.
Outside the door, Numbar 3 could hear the shuffling of feet and whispers from kids outside her room. Sometimes she would pick up the things they were saying like, "the birthday girl is in there…" and "…this is just so sad" and even, "…I'll miss her". They were the fellows of her Sector, those who'd replaced her comrades lost to time. They made a show of their behavior as merely a display of concern for her well-being but their ulterior motive was apparent. They were keeping guard to ensure she didn't bolt from decommissioning.
Numbah 3 let a bemused smirk grace her shallow features. She gave a tight squeeze of the stuffed creature in her arms and let her mind wander.
Time was a steady, tireless, predictable beast. No matter how one fought it, or ran from it, time ticked on. Until the day, one turned around, and time had caught up. Childhood with all its adventure and wonderment was gone and suddenly one was thirteen.
It had happened to all of them, each member of the illustrious Sector V. One by one they fell to time.
Numbah 5 was the first. It had been several months ago, a lifetime to any kid, but for Numbah 3 it felt like yesterday. Kids Next Door held the traditional stadium-style gathering, even members of the KND that never came out of their tree houses showed up to give their farewells. Everyone and anyone who could make it were there, thus was the popularity of Numbah 5. Her entire soon-to-be former Sector surrounded her in the center of it all at a table complete with birthday cake. For most of the event she was silent, only a soft smile playing on her lips, as speeches were given regarding her illustrious career as a KND operative as well as her short, yet, productive stint as Soopreme Leader.
Numbah 3 remembered the look on Numbah 5's face when the decommissioning officer, that red-headed fury Numbah 86 who would face the same fate a month later, came to lead her away. She'd held her jaw stiff, kept her features passive, but her eyes had shimmered with a fear and uncertainty that only her long-time comrades could detect. She gave a few words of parting to all the operatives, then to each member of her Sector she whispered more intimate good-byes. On that window bench, Numbah 3 smiled, thinking of the last words Numbah 5 had ever spoken to her.
"You keep these boys in line for Numbah 5, kooks."
Then Numbah 5 left behind an awe-struck crowd, and only Abigail Lincoln returned.
Numbah 2, only a few months after 5, was next. Numbah 3 allowed a soft sad giggle to slip from her throat as she chewed her sleeve while recalling his thirteenth birthday. He had wanted it to be spectacular, a true party. He had all but laughed at the idea of a somber tribute to his heroic deeds over the course of his KND career. The cake had to be huge, he had declared, enough that everyone could have seconds, thirds, even fourths. Music was a must, dancing, and rootbeer all around. Every KND flyboy came and together they took Numbah 2 on a last flight, a flock of 2x4 technology vehicles soaring through the clouds in unified formation. He laughed and joked with everyone at the party but it was obvious to his Sector that the mirth was a front. Inside he was quaking; afraid and depressed. They all understood. In mere moments every happy memory, every triumph, every epic adventure, and everyone he cared about, would be gone and he wanted to soak up as much of it and them that he could.
When the new decommissioning officer came to lead Numbah 2 away, a bit of that sorrow cracked his features. He kept up the guise in front of the guests, but for his Sector's eyes only; he allowed tears to stream down his goggle-donned face. He attempted a jovial good-bye that ended in a giant group hug and then the plump pilot waddled away and Hoagie P. Gilligan Jr. remained.
When Numbah 1 was decommissioned, not even a month later, Sector V had to be dismantled, as it had meant their team leader was gone now and only two members remained. Numbah 1 had gone out much like Numbah 5, stoic and respectful. However, where the young girl had been plagued by fear, not a trace of anxious emotion had marred his features. It hadn't been bravery but so much more. There was an acceptance in him in a way that, as Numbah 3 soon faced her own decommissioning, she finally understood. He'd fought the good fight, and his loyalty to the KND would forever be unyielding, but he was simply…ready. He gave a rousing speech, one that moved the crowd to tears. Even after he was led away, the Nigel Uno that was left behind was no less than Numbah 1 had been.
Numbah 3 squeezed her eyes shut, hugging tightly to her the stuffed creature she'd adored in childhood; a shaky sigh escaped her lips, and she sunk back against the wall. Her next recollection was the hardest.
Three months ago on Numbah 4's thirteenth birthday, the toughest former member of Sector V, and perhaps all of KND, had gone missing. An alarm was raised as frantic operatives scoured the globe. The terrible thought had filled all their minds, had Numbah 4 gone rogue? It was the worst they could all imagine happening. He'd never been the brightest member of his group but he was still one of the best operatives to ever have served in the KND, and he'd been privy to highly secure items. Having to face him as a foe on the battlefield was one thing, but the information leak would be disastrous to their organization.
Numbah 3 recalled standing on the platform leading to the decommissioning chamber, feeling lost and hopeless, as other operatives ran helter-skelter about. She hadn't been allowed to help as she'd been closest to Numbah 4 and her thirteenth birthday wasn't far off. She remembered the way it felt when word reached her; they'd located her comrade, they were bringing him in. Her heart was a mix of relief and despair. She could still see him so clearly in her mind, waltzing into the Moonbase with an armed escort, a swagger in his step. Arrogance and cockiness rolling off of him in waves.
"Numbah 4," she had exclaimed, "I was so worried! Everyone was saying you'd gone to the teenagers…" She had trailed off, her voice low and sad.
"You know I'd never join no cruddy teenagers," had been his gruff reply, thickly accented, and she had smiled, because it was true, she had never doubted him for a moment. He grinned at her boyishly and explained conspiratorially, "I figured if I was going to forget everyone soon I'd have to make darn sure they wouldn't be forgetting me anytime soon."
And no one would be forgetting Numbah 4. That day, he had set a record that would probably never be trumped for most adult villains defeated in one day by one operative. When the KND decommissioning patrol had finally caught up to him he had just finished rescuing a gaggle of girl scouts from the orthodontically enamored Knight Brace.
On the platform, Numbah 4 had dropped his voice, lowering his chin so that his hair shadowed his expression and digging his hands deep into the pockets of his sweatshirt, "Uh…Numbah 3…seeing as how I won't be remembering you in a few minutes…there was something I wanted to tell you…before I…well…forget…"
"Yes, Numbah 4?"
Looking up through loose strands of blond hair, Numbah 4 had seemed to falter as he took in Numbah 3's appearance, standing with shimmering eyes and hands clasped together. Soon she would be alone. She would be the last. And he wouldn't be able to remember her.
"I…uh…well…um…I…" Numbah 4 looked away then, grimacing, and kicking at the ground, finally muttered, "I hid the last of my Halloween candy under the wrestling mat in my room and since it won't be my…uh…room anymore, I want you to have it."
"Oh," Numbah 3 had whispered response, letting her eyes drop, "Thanks."
"…Right," Numbah 4 had rubbed a hand over the back of his neck, "Uh…er…you won't forget me…will ya', Numbah 3?"
"No, silly," Numbah 3 had giggled, "I'm not the one being decommissioned!" She couldn't be sure but back then Numbah 4 had looked somewhat disappointed by that answer.
The decommissioning officer had stepped up to them then, saying, "It's time."
"Well, wait," Numbah 4 had stammered, "I'm not done saying good-bye yet…" As officers took up each of his arms, grumbling grievously 'come on, teenager', leading him away, he had called over his shoulder, "Numbah 3, listen, take care of yourself, okay? I won't be here to watch your back anymore so just…be careful and don't act all ditzy and girly all the time. Be alert. And don't let anyone talk down to you…or…or…treat you like you're a dummy. You're not a dummy, Numbah 3…even for a cruddy girl…and…"
Then, as she did now sitting alone on a window bench, Numbah 3 had sniffled. She realized, part of her had wished that he had gone rogue, a voice screaming in her mind, 'run, Numbah 4, run'. She had never cried at the decommissioning of her fellow operatives. There was something in Numbah 5's taciturn retreat, Numbah 2's rambunctious celebration, and Numbah 1's unfaltering courage, that had granted her the strength to wear an encouraging smile throughout each of their good-byes. But when she watched Numbah 4 be half-dragged away into the decommissioning chamber, she had let her cheerful façade drop as tears trickled off her trembling chin.
"…and remember, Numbah 3, you're strong! Don't let anyone tell you different! And don't think you're alone, neither, 'cause we'll still be friends…uh…even if I can't remember you," he had forced the guards to halt, as they tugged viciously at his arms, turning so that his glinting green eyes met her own shimmering ones, "Please, don't forget me, Numbah 3…Kuki, don't forget…Kuki, I…" The chamber door had slammed shut then cutting off Numbah 4's last words. She left without waiting; not wanting to face what would be left when Numbah 4 was gone.
Numbah 3 heard rather than saw the rocket that would take her to the Moonbase land outside of the tree house. As her newly arrived escort exchanged pleasantries with her Sector members, she raised the Rainbow Monkey up to face her and smiled wryly at it.
"It's time, now," she told the expressionless multi-colored doll, "You have to stay here with the Kids Next Door and I have to go…go…be a teenager. You be brave, okay?" She set the doll down on the bench and raised herself up, stretching languidly as the escort entered. They all carried mustard guns and Numbah 3 felt the urge to tell them they wouldn't need those. Like all of Sector V before her, she would not run. She was ready for what was to come.
The ride to the Moonbase was unbearable. The still quiet inside of the rocket Numbah 3 could have handled, but the grim faces of her escort were heart wrenching.
Pleasantly, she piped, "How was the cake?" In regards to the traditional birthday pastry that KND Global Command made in honor of a leaving operative. Numbah 3 had declined eating any. She felt those operatives that were still on the battlefield better deserved it. Her fight was over.
"Oh…um…really good. I had three slices," the pilot answered, his friend nodded enthusiastically.
"I'm glad," Numbah 3 murmured, turning her attention out the window as those silver bodied fish darted past in the deep black.
On the Moonbase, operatives stopped and stared as Numbah 3 marched past, some saluted while others only gaped or shook their heads sorrowfully. When they reached the door to the decommissioning chamber, operatives who had all crowded around suddenly broke into applause. Numbah 3 took a deep breath, spun to face the kids, waved and smiled brightly, declaring cheerfully, "Bye everybody! I'll miss you."
In the decommissioning chamber, Numbah 3 was strapped into the large hulk of machinery in the center of the room.
"It's going to be alright, Numbah 3," one of the guards told her, though there was a small hitch in his voice. She smiled up at him with assurance in her eyes.
"I know," she said. Soon, everything would be alright. More than alright. This is what she wanted. She admitted to herself that she had looked forward to this day since Numbah 4's decommissioning. It wasn't that she accepted it; it was that she welcomed it.
Throughout their childhood, the members of Sector V, whether on a mission or not, had been inseparable. They had been more than a team; they had been the best of friends. Even more than that, they had been a surrogate family.
After their decommissioning, however, everything changed. The memory washing put a distance between them, a gap that could never be bridged. The worst part however was that they were there; she still saw them at school, passing from class to class. There were times when she could literally reach out and touch one of them, but they'd never seemed so far away. They couldn't remember their adventures together, but she could.
Worse still, without the KND, the former teammates never seemed to see anything within one another that they had in common. They never spoke to one another, never rebuilt a friendship. The most devastating of it all, however, they all seemed so…happy. Oblivious, ignorant, and blissfully happy.
Numbah 3 wanted that happiness. She was ready to forget, as they had. She wanted these memories wrenched from her mind. It was too hard remembering what they couldn't. She wanted purged from her that want, that desire, to be a part of their lives when all she could be now was just a simple observer. She would have cut out these memories herself the day Numbah 4 was decommissioned had it been in her power. She was ready, oh yes, she was ready. Ready to no longer know who or what she was missing.
"It was a pleasure serving with you," the decommissioning officer told Numbah 3 from where he stood at the control panel. He dragged a lever down and a plunger dropped to capture Numbah 3's face, engulfing her in black and choking back any scream of surprise.
All at once, memories flooded before her eyes, like candles in the wind, they flickered and died.
Kuki Sanban startled, as though shaken from a trance, her eyes fixed on the moon. For a fleeting moment, she wasn't certain where she was though a quick glance around revealed that she was laying on the lawn in the backyard of her family home. How she had gotten there and why was a mystery though. She couldn't quite shake the sensation that she had just been somewhere else. For the life of her she couldn't figure where that somewhere else would have been.
Behind where Kuki lay, the sound of a door sliding open cut through the night and a high-pitched voice squeaked out her name. Frowning, Kuki sat up, brushing the loose black strands of hair from her face and straightening her shirt.
"What is it, Mushi?" she questioned her younger sister standing in the doorway.
"Dad wanted to start the cake," Mushi answered, "Are you coming?"
"Sure," Kuki sighed, pulling herself to her feet, brushing debris from her clothes, and starting for the door. She didn't really feel hungry but she didn't want to worry her family, she never passed up cake. And, after all, it was her thirteenth birthday. Mushi seemed to catch her sister's solemn expression, her brow furrowing in concern.
"Are you okay?"
"Hm…?" Kuki murmured, looking puzzled to the younger girl, "Um…yeah. I just feel like…I'm forgetting something…something really important."
Mushi eyed her sister with worry, chewing at her bottom lip before shrugging, stating simply, "It must not have been that important." Without another word, she disappeared back into the house.
"But it was…I think…" Kuki whispered. She paused, momentarily, looking up to the moon once more. It hung so high, taunting her. Strange, she usually liked looking at the moon, so beautiful and alight with a mysterious glow, but that night, it seemed almost dreadful. She scrunched her nose, placing a hand on the doorframe as she began into her house. She wished she could remember…whatever it was that she felt she was forgetting.
Don't forget me. Kuki's heart thudded heavily in her chest.
"Wally," she mouthed. It was like a pulse beating in her mind, splotches of white spilled over her eyes, and she gripped tight to the doorframe to steady herself.
Don't forget me.
Kuki rushed into the house, running her hand over the wall and any furniture she past to hold herself upright. She stumbled into the bathroom, falling back against the door to shut it behind her. She fumbled with the lock and then slid down to the tiled floor burying her face in her knees. Vertigo washed over her, head spinning and butterflies beating in her belly.
Wally. It kept time to her heart.
Wally. Badump. Wally. Badump. Wally. Badump.
Don't forget me, he'd said.
"Who was he?" she demanded of the dark empty room.
A flash of soft green, bright orange, and suddenly she found herself clutching the toilet seat, her dinner, partially digested, spewing from her gaping mouth, chest and throat heaving violently. When she finished a few seconds later, she stared disdainfully down at the regurgitated meal, her body quivering, and skin drenched in a layer of cold sweat.
Numbers swirled through Kuki's head as she started to heave again. One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five. Every time she thought she could compose herself, the numbers and nausea would come again.
"What…is…going…on…?" she sobbed, gasping for breath.
Numbah 1. It rang in her head like a chime. Black sunglasses conjured in her mind and a shiny baldhead.
"Not a number," she whispered.
Not a number but a Numbah. A person. One was a person, not a number. They were all people. Numbahs. Numbah 1, Numbah 2, Numbah 3, Numbah 4, Numbah 5.
"Who were they?"
Numbah 2. Zoom and a glimpse of powder blue. Numbah 3….
"Me," she whispered, not entirely sure what that meant, "I'm…I was…3…"
Numbah 4. Tiny marsupials wearing boxing gloves. Numbah 5. A long dark braid and red cap.
Wally. Don't forget me.
"I don't know who you are…" she whimpered pleadingly, squeezing her eyes shut, trying to get the room to stop twirling as tears flowed freely down her cheeks, "What is happening to me?"
It felt as though a white-hot poker were searing the front of Kuki's skull. She leaned back, flushing the bile down the toilet, as images of kids, a large tree house, the moon, a rocket, and numbers flashed in front of her eyes. She couldn't make sense of any of it though. They were like puzzle with missing pieces and ones that wouldn't fit.
"Decommissioning didn't work," the words fell off her tongue though she hadn't a clue what she was saying. She made a face and whispered to the ceiling, "But…what does that even mean?"
A voice in her mind whispered, It means you can't be happy.
I don't know what order the kids' birthdays went in and as far as I could find no one else does either. While researching I found that Wikipedia lists Wally as being the youngest but don't listen to that because it's a lie. The episodes referenced for age deduction don't reveal anything. I know that most viewers speculate that Wally and Kuki are the youngest of the group but as they're all the same age year-wise it doesn't really matter all that much. I placed Kuki as the last operative to be decomissioned. So there.
uh...I don't think I have anything else to say so...I hope you liked this. I would greatly appreciate a review. I think its bullocks that writers on this site have to beg for feedback so I'm not going to. I will, however, surreptitiously mention that one of the biggest reasons I stopped writing fanfics was because of lack of reader response despite having a large following for my stories. So...no reviews, no updates. Get it, got it, good? Well, I say that but I probably don't mean it. We'll see.